London health clinic offering chemsex kits

Vada That

A London health clinic has become the first to issue ‘slamming kits’ to counter the threat of HIV and STI transmission during the increasing number of chemsex parties in the capital.

The move follows a study commissioned from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) which found that the rising chemsex trend is one of the possible reasons for an increase in HIV and STI cases among gay men.

Chemsex parties often involve the use of drugs such as GHB, GBL, ketamine, mephedrone and crystal meth, and commonly feature sex with multiple partners.

Now Southwark’s Burrell Street Sexual Health Clinic has begun to issue packs to those who take part in chemsex sessions.

These contain condoms, lube, packs of clean syringes, spoons and thermometers to help party-goers stay safe.

The three London Boroughs which commissioned the report – Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham – have some of the highest HIV rates in Britain.

Some slamming parties can last for days, and keeping equipment clean and safe for participants taking drugs and having sex is seen as a growing priority by health promotion experts.

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One psychotherapist at Burrell Street, Robert Palmer, stressed that the clinic was not intending to encourage chemsex, but to make sure that those who participate in slamming parties could do so in less risky circumstances.

‘They’re to ensure that if men are choosing to inject, that they are doing it safely.’

‘The kits contain colour-coded needles so each user can easily see which is theirs, lessening the chance of using someone else’s.’

Mr Palmer told the London Evening Standard that since the report in December, which said that those taking part in slamming parties were putting themselves at ‘significant risk’, more than 120 of the packs had been distributed.

Rearchers found that although slamming parties were still relatively uncommon, the number was increasing and that the use of strong drugs could make it more difficult for participants to make clear decisions about their health.

It is hoped that information provided by the clinic could also help reduce the risk of panic attacks and overdoses.

Following the LSHTM report’s publication, lead researcher Dr Adam Bourne, told the newspaper: ‘A section of society is using new drugs in new ways that is putting them at serious risk.’

‘Although our study shows that chemsex is uncommon overall, there is a need for specialist support for men who have sex under the influence of these drugs.’

‘Gay and bisexual men need better information and advice as well as access to gay-friendly drug and sexual health services that are able to address the psychosocial aspects of chemsex.’

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Around a third of the gay men surveyed for the study said they had had unprotected sex while on drugs and had found it more difficult to make clear health decisions regarding their subsequent sexual activity. At the same time as the publication of the report, Jim Dickson, Lambeth’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: ‘This research provides essential insight into the complex needs of this particular at risk group of our local residents.’

‘It will enable us to work with partner organisations to find new approaches to reducing harm and to support the health and well-being of affected men.’

The seven-day-a-week Burrell Street Sexual Health Clinic, which is the country’s largest, is part of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

It is currently offering gay men a walk in-service at Fire Nighclub, close to Vauxhall Station, on Sundays between 1.30pm and 4pm, where check-ups, PEP and rapid-HIV test are available.

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